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8 Reasons to Study a Science MRes Course

What to do after you finish your science bachelor’s? It can be quite a daunting prospect – the university life is coming to an end and the real world is beckoning, but you don’t feel like you’re done with academia just yet.

Perhaps, like me, you enjoyed your final year project and began to acquire a taste for the research life. Maybe you’re pretty sure you want to do a PhD at some point down the line but you don’t want to dive in just yet. Or maybe you’re just curious about what an MRes actually is.

Whatever your situation may be, here are the top 8 reasons why you should consider studying an MRes in science...

 

Try Out Potential Research Areas Before Committing to a PhD

phd research
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The idea of a 3- or 4-year PhD can be quite a daunting prospect, after all it’s a massive commitment and a decision you shouldn’t take lightly.

So what’s the rush? Take your time and test the water before you dive in. An MRes is the perfect opportunity to try out the area that interests you. Maybe you’ll absolutely love the lab you’re working in, in which case you can often extend the MRes into the first year of a PhD. Or maybe you’ll find it boring and grow to hate it – bet you’re glad you didn’t start that PhD now aren’t you?


Be Your Own Boss (to an extent!)

like a boss
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Learning to work independently is an incredibly important aspect of the MRes, and so timekeeping and organisational skills are crucial components to your success in research.

If this idea scares you, don’t worry! There are plenty of people who will have your back as you will often be working alongside PhD students and postdocs who will be experienced in the field and happy to help.

Remember, no one is expecting the finished product when they accept you into their lab – you’re still a student after all!

 

Bored of Going to Lectures?

sleeping
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Let’s face it – there’s only so much you can learn by sitting in a lecture hall.

Once the groundwork has been laid it’s important to experience your subject first-hand. The experience you can gain during an MRes is unique and gives you a chance to learn the ropes of the science world, from literature reviews and the lab bench to lecturing.

And whilst most MRes courses will include a few tutorials and workshops on the side, the main chunk of the degree will be your research project(s).
 

Make Your CV Stand Out

be awesome
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Nowadays it seems like everyone has a bachelor’s degree, so gaining a postgraduate qualification like an MRes will give your CV that extra mile and put you ahead of the crowd when applying to jobs. It also gives you an edge in interviews as you essentially graduate with a year’s lab experience.
 

Increase Your Chances of Landing a PhD Place

accepted
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PhD placements are becoming more and more competitive, especially at Russell Group universities. So having research and lab experience under your belt will be a massive help, both in getting responses from universities and in PhD interviews.

Who do you think a PI is more likely to choose: someone fresh out of their bachelor’s degree or someone with a year of lab experience, a dissertation and maybe even their name on a publication in a journal?
 

Dissertations Instead of Exams

writing
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An MRes will typically consist of one or two research projects which culminate in a dissertation-style write-up, so this may be the course for you if report writing is your forte or if you always get better marks on your coursework.


You Don’t Want to Pay £9000 for Your Masters

money
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Now don’t get too excited – funding for masters courses is becoming rarer and rarer and can be very difficult to find, but it does still exist. Importantly it seems to be more common for MRes rather than for MSc courses. A good place to start looking is the Research Councils UK's official site.

Sometimes you may be lucky enough to receive a stipend on top of course funding. This is a tax-free allowance, usually provided by one of the research councils, to help out with living expenses while you study.

If you’re really struggling to find a funded course, or the course you want to do doesn’t include any funding, a lot of universities will offer scholarships or reduced tuition fees for outstanding students – so if you’re still an undergrad, there’s some extra incentive to go for that 1st.
 

Make a Genuine Contribution to Your Field

making a difference
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The final year project of an undergraduate science degree often seems a bit rushed, usually being squeezed into a 3-month period, and it can feel like you’re just ticking a box on the way to your graduation.

But during an MRes, you can often become an important cog in your research team and make a significant contribution - sometimes even getting your name on a publication in a journal.

 

Ultimately, you need to make a decision based on your circumstances. I think the most important aspects to take into account are the research that the institution is conducting (and whether it interests you), and what you plan to do afterwards.

If you are at all unsure, don’t jump into a decision! It’s a waste of your time and money - take a step back and talk to lecturers, former students and careers advisors to get their guidance. If this doesn’t help, take some time out to think about it and in the meantime try to gain some experience in the field you’re interested in.

 

Jargon used:

MRes = Master of Research

MSc = Master of Science

PhD = Doctor of Philosophy

PI = principal investigator, usually the professor or senior lecturer in charge of the lab you’re working in.

 

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